I was about 50 pages in before I thought, wait, is this a novel? And I looked at the cover and sure enough: What We Lose: A Novel. This book does not read like a novel – it reads like the best memoir you’ve ever read. I hesitate to even say that because I don’t want people who don’t like memoirs to skip this book. It is fantastic and worthy of being read.
The story is that of a black woman who lives in the U.S. but has roots in South Africa. She feels very little connection when visiting back “home” in South Africa, yet she doesn’t feel that she fully belongs in the U.S. either.
The book is purposely choppy, in that it jumps back and forth between various stories in the protagonist’s life and between decades. I can see how this would get aggravating or hard to keep track of if not so perfectly done, but Clemmons has a talent for completely grounding her readers.
Most chapters were short – some just a single sentence – and I paged through this one in a day and a half. There are so many things touched on in this book – motherhood and losing a mother and falling in love and falling out of love. So much stuff. So rich. So well done. Highly recommended.
Rating: 10/10 – God damn, it is going to be hard to pick favorite books at the end of the year.
Recommended for: Everyone. Seriously, all y’all.
Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? Yes
Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: Y / Y / Y / Y